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LawTalk 909, August 2017

06 October 2017

Thank you to Claudia King for being “real” and sharing her experiences as a lawyer. Anything to dispel the myth that being a lawyer involves simply rolling in cash, playing golf, and dealing with clients who are reasonable men and women, just off the Clapham Omnibus, is helpful. Legal education does not do enough to prepare lawyers for the realities of legal practice. Neither does the polite aspect of the profession give it proper acknowledgment or weight. Claudia’s client’s statement “It’s not my fault your Dad died (i.e. get my work done)” – totally disgusting – sadly doesn’t surprise me at all, based on my own experiences. I am tired of being abused and taken for a ride by “clients”. In many ways, the morality of the general public is in a very poor state, adding to the stress of the job. “Clients” have recourse to a complaints system at the drop of a hat, with teeth weighted in favour of the consumer, clients will happily use to diddle a practitioner, too. Of course, there is no similar jurisdiction to protect legal practitioners.

On the letter “Read your own unconscious bias”, I am thoroughly sick, too, of gender wars being carried on through the Law Society and Law Talk. Is an article on All Blacks who died during the war (a topic I am not in love with, but I respect it for the effort made) offensive because that must disrespect others who don’t share the identifying characteristics of the said All Blacks? To the extent, the editor has to genuflect (which was very kind of him)? Shouldn’t apologies be extended to the homosexual and conscientious objector communities, too? Is it that we now have a double standard in the profession? Female practitioners can be as stroppy and accusatory as they like, and the profession cheers them on because “female assertiveness should be encouraged” or “they’re just behaving more like a man would” (a stereotype). But, a different standard is applied to male practitioners, in reality? I see this developing.

On “Property Law Section – What does it do?” That exchange was useful. I let my membership of the PLS drop, as it did not seem to offer anything of actual use, compared with the Family Law Section (which I have found to be very supportive over the years). There is not enough genuine help in the profession. I tried to use the PLS’s “consulting practice” at one time, but my every-day problem was not suitable for it. (The Family Law Section would have helped, in such a practical matter). It, therefore, seemed pointless to belong. I fully endorse Mr Aislabie’s views on banks and their cost pushing. It is the kind of thing just waived off as trivial by those in advocacy positions or with a certain experience in the profession, but which, cumulatively, has an impact on real practitioners. There are several other cost-pushing incursions, initiated by larger entities, undermining what margins exist at a certain level in the profession. Each has had a certain impact. Cumulatively, they have added up to a significant additional burden, over the last 5–10 years. Not everyone operates in a market in which such things can just be waived off as without real effect or consequence. Of course, I’m just a male rolling in cash, who spends most of my days playing golf, dealing with reasonable clients and people in my wood-panelled offices, so what’s my problem? I can just suck it up. Another recent middle-aged male suicide in my extended community (he was not a lawyer) has reminded me, not to listen to those who say it is heretical to talk about such problems.

Peter McCutcheon
Auckland

Fazleen Ismail, General Manager Law Reform and Sections, responds:

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act has as one of its purposes, the protection of the consumers of legal services. There is no barrier for entry to the Lawyers Complaints Service. Forty percent of all complaints are resolved within 28 days through the Early Resolution Service. Law firms are encouraged to make the best use of their own internal complaints processes to resolve minor consumer complaints.

The retention and advancement of women lawyers, as well as diversity more broadly, are key areas of focus for the Law Society. We consider these to be critical to the success and sustainability of the legal profession.

We are pleased you found the information about the Property Law Section useful. We are sorry that your previous experience as a member of the Property Law Section did not meet your expectations. We are always open to feedback on how sections can improve services to members and invite you to contact us directly to discuss this. As well as the Property Law Section’s e-dealing consultancy service (which assists practitioners with conveyancing matters and the use of Landonline), the Law Society has a number of experienced practitioners who take calls on a “friend” basis.

Lawyers can access a broad selection of experienced practitioners through the Law Society’s National Friends Panel which is part of our Practising Well initiative.

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Last updated on the 6th October 2017